Top Ten Tuesday: Best/Worst Movie Adaptations

Top Ten Tuesday is a great meme created by Jamie at The Broke and the Bookish that combines top ten lists and books. She’s come up with a great list of weekly discussion topics and I hope you’ll join in the discussion by commenting on this post or some of the other ones (you can find the list of participating blogs in this week's Top Ten Tuesday post on her site).

This week’s topic is Top Ten Best/Worst Movie Adaptations.

This is a topic I feel very strongly about—you might have been able to guess that based on the fact that I both have seventeen entries and have divided them into categories. :p As I'm sitting here formatting this post, my husband is naming dozens of other movie adaptions - Stephen King adaptions, John Jake's North and South, Nick Hornsby Adaptations, The Shipping News, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, LA Confidential, Lawrence of Arabia; honestly, I had no idea how many movies are based on books until I really started thinking about it. Thank you, Jamie - this is a great topic! I hope we get to revisit it again some time!

Now, I’m going to get tarred and feathered for some of my opinions, I just know it. :-p ::deep breath:: Okay, well, here goes – just, before you throw the rotten eggs, please remember this is just my opinion! :-)

Brilliant and Faithful Adaptations of Books I Love

1. A&E’s Adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Oh, Colin Firth, how I love thee, let me count the ways. This movie, by far, is the pinnacle of what a movie adaptation should be. Yes, there are a couple of liberties, but not many, and overall this is just incredible—great casting, wonderful sets and costumes, faithful to the the book/story. That *other,* more recent, adaptation? I stopped watching after ten minutes. :-(

2. Princess Caraboo Adaptation of Caraboo: The Servant Girl Princess by Jennifer Raison and Michael Goldie
I love this movie and originally, I saw this before I even know it was a book. The movie does deviate from the book in terms of the love story, but overall, the rest of Mary’s story is faithful to the book.

3. The King and I (Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr) Adaptation of The English Governess at the Siamese Court by Anna Leonowns
There’s a romantic undertone to the movie that doesn’t exist in the book, but many, if not most, other elements in the movie are in the book and vice versa.

4. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The movie is mostly faithful to the book, but there are a few key changes—there’s not as much of Dickon in the book and Mary’s even worse/more unlikeable in the book. This is one of those rare instances where I like the movie better than the book.

Non-Faithful Adaptations of Books I Love That Are Nonetheless Really Good Movies That I Now Also Love

5. Kevin Sullivan’s Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea Adaptation of Anne of Green Gables Series by Lucy Maud Montgomery

The movie takes a lot of liberties with the books (okay, basically the movies are almost nothing like the books after you finish the material from the 1st book), but this is one of the rare instances where I think the movie is better than the books—and I loved the books as a kid. I think all of the choices/changes Sullivan’s team made enhanced the story—they kept all the elements, but maybe changed the order of events or assigned dialogue or actions from one lesser known character to a better known one, etc., and the casting was amazing. Megan Follows IS Anne Shirley, Richard Farnsworth IS Matthew, Colleen Dewhurst is Marilla, and Patricia Hamilton is Rachel Lynde. This is one of my all-time favorite movies. I almost always hate a non-faithful adaptation of a book that I love, so I’m not sure why I love these movies so. Honestly, I think I’ve given up trying to figure out the magic formula for when I like a movie adaptation and when I don’t!

6. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
There’s actually quite a bit of difference between the book and the movie (Michael is younger in the movie, Sophie’s sisters’ romance sub-plots are jettisoned in the movie, the final battle with the Witch of the Waste is completely different in the book, and Sophie realizes she had the power to break the Witch’s curse the entire time in the book), but I love both equally, in their own right. A little Miyazaki magic makes everything better!

7. A&E’s Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
My big beef with the movie adaptation’s faithfulness to the book is the changes to Rowena’s character. In the book, she’s a pushover. In fact, I wrote a paper once on Rebecca’s and Rowena’s reactions to being kidnapped (in the book)—Rowena bursts into tears while Rebecca threatens to jump out the window (willing to die rather than be compromised/ruined), thereby gaining the upper hand on de Bois Guilbert. They toughened Rowena up and added a hint of romance between Ivanhoe and Rebecca (and Rowena’s jealousy) in the movie. Otherwise, however, it’s pretty faithful.

Awesome Movies That I Love That Are Based On Books I’ve Never Read

8. Lord of the Rings Triology by T.R.R. Tolkien
Peter Jackson did an amazing job—I love this movie trilogy so much. Oh, Legolas!

9. Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Okay, technically not a movie (it’s a t.v. series) but come on! I couldn’t not mention GoT! My husband has read the books and thinks the casting is dead on. All I know is that this show is so sweeping and amazing that I feel like I’m watching a movie every week.

10. Stardust by Neil Gaiman & Princess Bride by William Goldman
These two are in the same category—they’re just so much fun—I really loved them both.

11. The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
I haven’t read any Tom Clancy but I really enjoyed this movie (and I own it on DVD!). My husband says that there’s more going on in a Clancy book than in a Clancy movie (they simplify the plots for the movie adaptations I guess). Other than that tidbit, I have no idea how this stacks up against the book.

12. Masterpiece Theater Adaption Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
Two words—Alex Kingston. Long before I fell in love with her as River Song, or even before ER, she was Moll Flanders and boy, was she ever! At the end of the movie there is a narrative footnote about how the movie deviates from the book—apparently, the movie is mostly faithful except for how Moll gets out of trouble at the end, the happy ending with Jemy, and Moll’s age (she’s younger in the movie).

13. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Apparently, the movie deviates quite a bit from the book. However, the movie is amazing—I watch it once a year and I weep BUCKETS during the entire thing. It’s just so sad—the loss of innocence, longing, regret, and the melancholy of realizing your best years are behind you. And this is for kids? Nuh uh!

Horrible Movie Adaptations of Books I Love For Which Someone Should Be Tarred and Feathered

14. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
I know, I know! Bring on the tar and feathers! I’m sorry! Really, I am!! I wanted to love these movies, really I did! But I just didn’t—for me, I guess the only way I explain why I didn’t really like them is that they captured the letter of the books but not the spirit. The casting was great, the scenery/settings spot on, the CGI/effects great, and they were faithful to the books. And yet…something just felt flat to me. They made weird choices of what to trim from the books—they seemed to opt for longer CGI shots (of quidditch or battles) and cut the character development stuff and or just rushed everything. Or something. I don’t know what it was specifically, but I just felt kind of bored during these movies.

15. Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
ARGH! ARGH! ARGH! Did I mention ARGH?! The producers of these two movies know that C.S. Lewis was a pacifist, right? So why did both of these movies each play like one long epic battle film? ARGH!

16. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
We all knew they were going to gut the book to make the movie by purging all the anti-organized religion tones from this, which is sort of the heart/point of the story. I have no idea how they would have made the next two books into movies without getting into the religion stuff, since the war with the Authority and the religious folks’ (in the books) severing the link between daemons and kids are kind of the heart of the epic quest Will and Lyra are on.

17. The Color of Magic, Hogfather, Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
I love, love the Discworld Books. LOVE! Going Postal is probably my favorite one and is one of my all-time favorite books, so I was ecstatic when I saw they were finally making them into movies. And then…splat. Same complaint as Harry Potter—except I’m not even sure I’m down with the casting of these. They just felt rushed, flat, and boring.

And there you have it! What do you think of my list—any surprises? What about you—what are the books on your best/worst movie adaptation list?

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# Cheryl Malandrinos 2013-07-09 16:58
Thanks for stopping by The Book Connection. I see we are both Anne lovers. I agree with you on the movies being better than the books; though a part of me is angry Gilbert and Christine are engaged in the movie, forcing Gil to call off the wedding instead of it all just being rumor. I thought the relationship between Captain Harris and Anne in the movie was great.

I tried reading The Hunt for Red October once because I loved the movie. I simply couldn't get into all those technical terms.
# Terri B. 2013-07-09 08:00
@Lark - LOL, I think HP and Chronicles of Narnia are the two franchises where fans disagree most about the movies (whether they liked them or not) :-)

I have to confess I actually sat down and re-read the first three Anne of Green Gables books for this post b/c I couldn't remember if the movies were faithful or not. Pretty much after the 1st book I was like "WTF books did they base the movies on b/c it wasn't these ones!" LOL!
# Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard 2013-07-09 07:20
Stardust! OMG, how did I forget Stardust? Brilliant movie, brilliant book, and while they differ somewhat, they're equally magical in quite similar ways.

I'm completely with you regarding Anne of Green Gables, which I loved; less so Anne of Avonlea, which took more liberties with the plot.

I would have put the first and even the second Narnia films in a category of "movies I quite like but weren't faithful to the book."

I've read Hunt for Red October; frankly, I like the film better.

As for the HP films, we'll have to agree to disagree! ;-) Great list regardless, and there are several films here I need to watch. Oh -- and thank you for stopping by my TTT list!
# Terri B. 2013-07-09 06:52
@Tiffany - LOL! Good to know I'm not alone. I LOVE these books so much and have waited forever for a good adaptation. :-( I really hope someday someone does it right.
# Tiffany 2013-07-09 05:57
I totally agree with Chronicles of Narnia!!!
# Terri B. 2013-07-09 01:39
@Chrissi - ahahahaha!!! I know I'm going to get creamed on the HP movies. :-) Actually, though I was suprised by how many people have HP movies on their worst list. Apparently, the one I'm really going to get beat up on is not liking the Keira Knightly version of P&P! :-)
# Chrissi Reads 2013-07-08 18:12
We differ this week with Harry Potter! I thought they were good adaptations. I do get how annoying it was with some of the cuts they made. Great list!